South by Southwest 5.11a
Trip ReportTR - South by Southwest and Yosemite in the fall
Late fall is my favorite time of year in Yosemite. It’s mostly the air for me in this season that does it. The temps of it and the chill on the skin, the sharpness in the air, a certain way leaves fall through and sounds and smells move through late fall air. It seems to me like the light is a thick cloak on the Valley’s surfaces, kind of making pine needles and granite pick up a thick honey look in my mind. I lived in Maine for four years and maybe that did it, because people go batshit over fetishizing fall back there, for good reason. That probably wore off on me.
CA Dreamin’ and I had a good late fall weekend back at the end of October. Here are some, probably too many, pictures.
Waking up near Hardin.
We wanted to climb on the Elephant, so we were interested in checking the Merced’s flow.
First we went looking for Free Press down by Cascade Falls, but climbed Mud Shark instead.
Three of the Valley’s most storied classics: Crimson Cringe, Fish Crack... and Mud Shark.
Water was too high to climb Free Press, but it looked really good.
Free Press sits in between Fish and the Cringe. Got to get back for that one when water is lower.
High water shut us down on crossing the Merced to the Elephant.
After failing to get to Finger Lickin’ via PO hell, we finished that day off with Anticipation and the Gripper. We ended that good fall day with a good fall night at the Ahwahnee, on a comfortable couch by the fire, reading about mutagenic feral infants in the Great Concavity. Then we slept out in the dirt.
Next day we hoofed it up to Lower Cathedral Spire to climb South by Southwest. The views and the killer fall atmosphere up in those Cathedral gullies make hikes in that part of the Valley good.
Can you hear this photo?
The climb was a beauty, a harder grade than I’d usually have the courage for but CA Dreamin’ is an ox of a climber. I first met him in a parking lot in Manteca - Wendy’s - and the next day let out rope while he breezed up his pitches of the Steck-Salathe.
View from LCS (look at that chimney).
Does this date to the 30’s?
After a few pitches on the Regular we get a look at where SxSW breaks off. The .10d fingercrack bulge is visible here.
More good views on route. Cascading granite on all sides of you up there. Setting can’t be beat.
I took the .10d pitch, and managed to fall after reaching the jug that signifies the end of the crux. It’s a fantastic pitch - you have to step off the end of a narrow ledge to pull into the first lock, and it’s the first big exposure of the climb. Like fingerlocking your way off of a ship’s plank with the ocean 1,000 ft below.
The steepness and position of that pitch and the next make for great exposure and climbing. What a plumb for Shipley on the FA. From the belay before the .11a hands pitch.
My gear for the fingers bit.
Good place to while the time away and feel that fall air around you.
Next up is the .11a hands. Steep and pumpy, this pitch is full of jam after buttery smooth, tight-hands, red-camalot jam. Quality meter pegged at redline on this pitch. Liebacking on steep flakes and the occasional undercling or fist jam add variety. Talking about it later, we though that yeah, technique always helps on every pitch anywhere, and yeah you’ve got to climb like smoke and all that, but on steep pitches like this one you also just have to be strong. People say it's an easy pitch, but I'm really glad I didn't have to lead it. I wouldn't call it easy at all.
Then the top-out and the experience of being on that spire’s summit, and the veiws.
On the way out of the Valley we stopped in to say hello to Tom and thank him for all of the El Cap Reports. Tom is like the golden bowl, the gift that keeps on giving.
Tommy Caldwell’s folks were on the bridge, and we all watched Tommy rip up pitch 11 for a while. His dad mentioned that while he and Tommy we hiking up to the base that morning, all Tommy could talk about was how psyched he was for Sonnie Trotter on the Prophet, who’d been making some big progress that day. Exciting times on El Cap.
Also at the bridge was Solo Dan, who’d impressed all ECR readers by battling his way up the Nose over 10 days or so. He had some hilarious and horrific stories to tell.
Another good fall weekend in Yosemite on the books.
Recent Trip Reports
Other Routes on Lower Cathedral Spire